Winds of change may be blowing into St. Marks. More than ever the orange and black wings of the migrating monarch butterfly are swarming to the national wildlife refuge.
Robin Will, Supervisory Refuge Ranger, said, "2006 is supposed to be the best year for monarch migration since 1995, so we're really looking forward to a fantastic show."
Only four inches wide and one gram light, their blush of auburn and black glows against the blue skies of the cold front which brought them here.
Ranger Will says more than ever the monarch is calling Florida home, not settling to use the Sunshine State as just a resting place before heading to Mexico.
Susan Johnson, visiting from Chicago, said, "They're all just staying there and you can watch them. They're beautiful. I've never seen anything like it before."
Layne Hamilton, visiting from south Florida, added, "This is absolutely amazing. We just happened to stop by. Hadn't been here in years and just perfect timing, this is absolutely spectacular! Unbelievable!"
Biologists are tagging the butterflies, teaching the tourists, and checking out the species.
"...The male monarch butterfly [has] the two black tear shaped glands on the lower wings and the female does not have those glands."
The best time to see them is 12 hours after a cold front. The magnificent monarchs sparkle only for a short time. Their life span is just nine months long. Still, they have the longest known migration of any insect.
This cold front came just in time for the St. Marks Monarch Festival this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.